Fixing an Apartment Intercom Buzzer

As many New York City apartment dwellers know, the apartment intercom buzzer is a highly functional, very important piece of apartment life. Apartment intercom buzzers make you aware that a visitor or delivery person has arrived at your home. Many such intercoms allow for you to “buzz” friends and relatives into your building without actually going down several flights of stairs to the front door of the building to greet them.

But what to do when your apartment buzzer stops working? Sometimes it’s silent; sometimes it’s a sad, short blip instead of the buzzer’s normal vivacious ring. Either way, a buzzer on the fritz will put a crimp in your day. How to know when the pizza man arrives if he can’t buzz?

Many New York City apartment dwellers also know that there isn’t always someone available to fix a buzzer on a moment’s notice. So, how to get that buzzer working on your own?

First: Investigate the Button

The first thing to check on a buzzer that’s on its way out is the button that people press to let you know they’re there. Is it loose? Broken?

If upon inspection the button looks fine, pull the casing off and get to looking at the wiring beneath it. Are the wires properly attached to the button? Is there dust preventing contact between wires? If so, swab it with lens cleaner or a tissue dipped in rubbing alcohol. That might even fix the issue.

If the wires are properly fastened to the button and there is no dust present, remove the wires completely from the button and touch them together (using caution to test voltage before doing this so as not to get shocked, of course). If, when the wires are touched together, you hear the full sound that your intercom buzzer usually makes, the problem lies in the button. You’ll need a new one. However, if there is no sound or only a faint sound when the wires are crossed, your problem may be in the transformer.

Second: Investigate the Transformer

The transformer is a mechanism within the wiring of your buzzer, which transforms 110-120 volt currents into the 10 to 18 volts which doorbells and buzzers use. The transformer is located within the chime enclosure and unfortunately you cannot work on it with an electric current present. Therefore, you would need to have electricity to it shut off to fix the problem yourself – at that point, you might as well have your landlord or management company handle the issue altogether. However, in the interest of time, you can inspect the low voltage wires that connect to the transformer without shutting off your electricity. There is a chance that these wires have simply become lose and a quick tightening with a screwdriver will get your buzzer working again.

If the wires look fine, you should use a digital multimeter to measure the voltage in the transformer’s terminals. If you detect low voltage, there is a good chance you need a new transformer.

Third: Investigate the Buzzer Wiring

Lastly, you should inspect the wiring within the actual buzzer mechanism. Use electrical tape to tighten any wires that appear loose. Now, use your voltmeter to test the voltage. Is it high or low? If the readers are below 6V or above 16V, you may need to replace the buzzer itself.
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